Lloyds Bank ends its control of Telegraph - leaving newspaper with bizarre status

Lloyds will get back the £1.2 billion Credit: PA

An amazing event will happen today.

Lloyds will get back the £1.2 billion they lent the Barclay brothers to finance their ownership of the Telegraph, the Spectator and other assets.

Lloyds, which only ever expected to be repaid £500 million (the written-down value of the debt), will get all its money back and will terminate its long relationship with Barclays.

It means the Telegraph now has a bizarre status.

The Barclays brothers are - in a technical sense - the owners again, though governance sits with a new board of independent directors.

But the owners in a fundamental economic sense are Red Bird IMI and its Abu Dhabi partners.

Red Bird and Abu Dhabi have taken on the important risks associated with being proprietors of the Telegraph, even though the government has taken action that could lead to them being ruled as unacceptable owners.

The Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has issued a public interest intervention notice that triggers an inquiry by Ofcom about whether the Abu Dhabi investment in the Telegraph would be against the public interest by distorting news coverage and a separate inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority into possible deleterious effects on competition.

She wants their verdicts by January 26.

So the uncertainty over the long-term ownership of the Telegraph and the Spectator persists, because Frazer could ultimately determine Abu Dhabi is an unsuitable owner - at which point Red Bird and Abu Dhabi would have to restart the auction, to retrieve their funds from the Barclay brothers.

This is quite a saga.

As for Lloyds, it can’t believe its luck.

A wag there sent me this about its Telegraph exit: “We are always happy to work with any customers who get into difficulty with their repayments and urge anyone worried about their debts to call us so we can work with them on a repayment plan or other options”.

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